During the Obama administration’s tenure, there has been increasing unease regarding the military’s ability to counter terrorism and address situations developing in countries such as North Korea and China, if necessary. Most recently, Rep. Michael Turner (R-OH), a senior member on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee and Subcommittee Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, has grave concerns. “President Obama, with his plan of sequestration, has really hollowed out our military,” he told radio host John Catsimatidis on AM 970 New York. “We’ve seen our military readiness, the capabilities of our military, decline significantly,” Turner said.
In addition to fiscal issues, the military has also been hit with game-changing new directives aimed at addressing climate change. It has been mandated that climate change be incorporated into every aspect of military training and preparedness, “from training troops to joint ventures with allies. In addition to military preparedness and the ability to keep the citizens of our country and armed forces personnel safe, the U.S. military must now concern itself with climate change. Charged with a plethora of new directives, all military personnel must deal with new policies aimed at the ability to ‘access and manage risks associated with the impacts of climate change.’”
DoD Directive 4715.21, Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience became effective on January 14, 2016. The following is just an example of the type of transformation the military will undergo:
- The Secretary of Defense has been instructed to supervise the implementation of DoD policy on climate change “adaptation and resilience.”
- It is now necessary for the military to institute climate-change boards, councils, and working groups to “integrate climate change considerations into DoD programs, plans, and policies.
- Under the new guidelines, the DoD has to initiate the creation of modeling and simulation efforts “in support of climate change impact.”
- The Assistant Secretary of Defense will oversee the,“integration of climate change considerations, even to the extent of modifying weapons systems and other military equipment, and weigh future defense expenditures as to their ability to fit the new guidelines."
- This will include implementing climate-change training and education for the armed forces.
- The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has been ordered to work with allies and partners to “optimize joint exercises and war games incorporating climate change.”
- The New American: “While any possible foresight aimed at preserving the safety, health, and well-being of our military personnel is wise, the new directives seem to place the safety of the environment as the number one concern. Now even combat commanders must take the environment into full consideration, adding new burdens onto personnel who already have the safety of their troops as a top priority.”
- The New American: “Dakota L. Wood, who served America for two decades in the U.S. Marine Corps, is the senior research fellow for defense programs at The Heritage Foundation. Speaking to the Washington Times, Wood said the directive is confused, saying in part, ‘It includes such a wide variety of issues with no explication or context.’ Wood is correct; military leaders must now worry not only about the success of a mission and the preservation of American lives, but plan missions and strategies in the same manner as President Obama when he refused to allow troops to engage ISIS fuel trucks in order to avoid an ‘environmental crisis.’”
At the same time, it is expected that the Islamic State caliphate will expand in 2016. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a report which highlights concerns regarding the advance of ISIS, the possible development of crude chemical weapons and other potential threats.
And, ISIS has already established beachheads well beyond its Middle East proving grounds. According to Foreign Policy Magazine, “some 34 groups around the world reportedly pledged allegiance to the movement by the end of 2015, according to Ban’s report. The movement and its affiliates have proved their ability to carry out complex terrorist attacks from Paris to Jakarta and to inspire ‘lone-wolf’ terrorists, striking at Americans in San Bernardino last year.”
ISIS has also laid claim to territory in Libya, where approximately 2,000 fighters have pledged allegiance to the terrorist group. According to U.S. and U.N. officials, the group has a presence in Ajdabiya, Benghazi, and Tripoli, and maintains control over the desert city of Sirte.
Additionally, Egyptian terrorists swore allegiance to ISIS in November 2014. The group, which was officially established after the 2011 uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak, changed its name from Ansar Beit al-Maqdis to Wilayat Sinai. This branch of ISIS has been gaining strength and there has been a significant increase in communication between this branch and elements affiliated with ISIS' Security and Intelligence Council in Iraq and Syria--the assembly which is responsible for ISIS' most important clandestine activities.
There are also Al Shabaab factions who have pledged allegiance to ISIS, in addition to Boko Haram having also done so. And, the West is grappling with an upsurge of ISIS supporters.
It is against this backdrop that the hollowed out and strained U.S. military is operating. It sets a dangerous course for those who selflessly serve their country to follow.